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Simon say it isn't so

Politics | Tough week for California Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon

Issue: "Scorched-earth politics," Sept. 7, 2002

Tough week for California Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon: First an "arms-length" campaign swing from the president, who at two public events in the state didn't even mention the troubled candidate's name, then Mr. Simon himself put conservative supporters at arms length by embracing parts of the gay agenda.

In San Francisco last week Mr. Simon announced he would "take a look at" new domestic-partnership laws, would do nothing to reverse a controversial new law-AB25-granting legal protections for cohabiting gays, and would if elected declare a state Gay Pride Day.

Some GOP strategists worry that the moves, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, are fresh evidence that the Simon campaign is imploding in the wake of a huge lawsuit against Mr. Simon's investment company, fundraising troubles, and the layoff of three dozen campaign workers. A new poll finds him losing ground to Democrat Gov. Gray Davis; Mr. Simon now trails 41 percent to 30 percent.

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But Mr. Simon's chief campaign strategist Sal Russo complained to WORLD political columnist Joel Rosenberg that the story is being blown out of proportion: "There's been no affirmative strategy to go out and talk about gay issues. Bill was asked to fill out a questionnaire and we did, as we have done with many groups. He was asked some questions on the radio, and he answered them. But his positions haven't changed at all from the primary campaign."

Mr. Russo said that his boss supported Proposition 22 affirming marriage between a man and a woman and opposed AB25 as "fatally flawed." But he added: "California is a very libertarian state and what's done is done. AB25 is the law and it's not going to change."

But why would the devoutly Roman Catholic Simon agree to declare a Gay Pride Day? "Governors traditionally support all kinds of celebrations, what people are interested in," Mr. Russo said. "You could have an Artichoke Day, a Clean Beach Week, whatever."

Or Muddled Message Month?

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